were a "tri-racial isolate" group who lived in the area of Orangeburg County, Berkeley County and Charleston County from the early 1800s to the mid 1900s. They were a mixture of African, Native American, and European descent. Common surnames were Russell, Jackson, Driggers, Goins, Bunch, Sweat and Weatherford.
Red Bones, Brass Ankles, Turks and Lumbees
The existence of an influential mixed-race culture was more than worrisome to the racial purists of the early 20th century. The development of "scientific racism", eugenics, gave racists a tool to strike at the fugitive communities.
A by-product of the American Breeders Association, and largely shunned by geneticists as "vulgar", the Eugenics movement sought to "improve the herd" of humanity by encouraging the most fit to reproduce in abundance, and by eliminating the least fit from the national gene pool. "Defectives" were to be kept from breeding either by forced institutionalization or sterilization.
The main targets of the Eugenics movement were immigrants, minorities and people of mixed race. The term "tri-racial isolate" was first used by eugenicists to label the various pockets of mixed-race peoples.
Viewed as genetically flawed and unfit because of miscegenation, the isolated fugitive communities became a special concern of eugenicists. Their poverty and lack of formal education was viewed as a result of "mis-breeding" rather than the social antagonism of racial purists, which had caused their isolation.
Their defective germ plasm would be cured by sterilization and forced assimilation into the African American communities. The Ben Ishmael Tribe (a mixed-race Islamic community in the lower Midwest), the Melungeons, Redbones, Delaware Moors, Lumbees, Brass Ankles, all were faced with the choice of melting into the African American or European American communities.
Not surprisingly those that could "pass" for white did so. Those that could not became "mulattos".
In various locations across the south and east entire communities were given this choice. Names were changed, history was suppressed, culture was subdued. Those that could not bear this atrocity sought even further isolation. Losing their communities they became hermit families of the back country and swamps. In any case, they were cleansed from the popular reality.
The Eugenics movement peaked in the mid-1920s, a period that also saw Ku Klux Klan politicians win control of state governments in Oregon, Texas and Indiana. Virginia created its Racial Integrity Law (1924), which defined racial categories and was based primarily on Eugenics. Alabama and Georgia eventually copied the Virginia law. Twenty-eight States already had laws against whites and Negroes marrying. Six included this prohibition in their constitutions.